A researcher from Göttingen University, Germany, discusses the difficulties faced by mining communities in transition, according to a comment article published in Nature Energy.
Mining changes communities drastically, including landscapes, livelihoods, and the social fabric alongside the industry. But what happens to the communities when the mines close? How can communities cope with losing their main employer and the core of their identities? Now, a researcher from the University of Göttingen suggests ways to successfully navigate mining communities towards occupations not related to mining.
Dr. Kamila Svobodova suggests a three-step method centred around stakeholder collaboration as the most effective way forward. This includes early planning, local solutions, and targeted investments aimed at helping the workforce transition to other jobs.
Early discussions about the future can build trust with communities, and a combination of bottom-up and top-down approaches can engage all those involved. This ensures local people understand what’s going to happen and establishes valuable networks for collaboration during transition. In addition, coordinating investments, including support for workers and new industries, as well as enhancing essential services, have proved very successful in the past.
“To ensure energy security, it’s essential for governments to recognize the profound transformation that residents of mining communities experience when they shift away from mining,” Svobodova explained. “Neglecting these communities, their inherent strength of mining identity and unity could lead to social and economic instability, potentially affecting the overall national energy infrastructure.”
Moving away from mining is not an easy process. “It is essential that governments recognize that the transition takes time, and persistence is essential for success,” concluded Svoboda. “They should openly communicate their strategies, ensuring communities and other stakeholders are well-informed and engaged. Building trust and providing guidance helps residents navigate the uncertainties associated with transitions. By embracing the three-step approach that centers around stakeholder engagement, governments can prioritize equitable and just outcomes when navigating mining transitions as part of their energy security strategies.”
Svobodova, K., “Navigating community transitions away from mining,” Comment article in Nature Energy 2023. DOI: 10.1038/s41560-023-01359-9.